Thoughts on “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks”

We want it all. We want the championship. We want the corner office. We want Best In Show.

We want success. We want top billing. Too often, we overlook the honor in lesser milestones.

Reggie Miller never won a championship. Patrick Ewing never won a championship. To take it a step further, their franchises – the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks – are championship-less since 1973. For all intents and purposes, every season since 1973 has been a failure.

Ask Reggie Miller, though, and you’ll find the opposite.

For Reggie, there were two goals each year: to win the championship, and to beat the Knicks. He never reached the first goal, but for one year, during the 1995 playoffs, he accomplished the second, beating the Knicks on the back of one of the game’s greatest performances.

He didn’t win the big one, but the drive to beat his rival was so great that it counted as success. It gave him peace.

In the end, history will play off the Pacers/Knicks rivalry as a third-tier story. It occurred during the Houston Rockets’ repeat championships, during both Michael Jordan eras, and – even later – parallel to the rebirth of the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s a footnote.

Still, there are few chances to see how a team finds ambition and pride in smaller goals. Each game was a challenge, each series a sort of miniature championship.
They fought not just to win the war, but to win each battle therein.

How often does this happen to us? How often do we feel disappointed when we win regionally, yet fail to find success nationally? How often do we look at a promotion as a step toward the top, not as something to be equally proud of? How often do we treat each project as a massive undertaking, instead of taking pride in each detail?

I’ve never written a best seller. I never became a nationally known copywriter. I have yet to headline A List Apart. But, more than anything, I’m learning that this doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

There are differing degrees of success, and we have to take them one at a time.

Reggie never won a championship. But he’s a few years away from becoming a Hall of Famer. He’s a relatively successful broadcaster. And, no matter what, he’s always got that 1995 series against the Knicks, where, for a few days, he felt like a champion.

Who’s to say he never succeeded? Come to think of it, who’s to say we haven’t, either?

This was lovingly handwritten on December 20th, 2010